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BRITISH COLUMBIA MINISTRY OF WATER, LAND & AIR PROTECTION

Preventing Bear Problems

 

Backyard Bears

Once bears learn that it's okay to seek out food in your backyard, they can damage your property and they pose a potential safety hazard. You can help keep bears away from your home by removing any bear-attracting food sources and clearing away any dense brush that could provide cover.

If a bear comes into your backyard try to startle and scare it away by flashing lights and making lots of loud noises. Let the bear know that it is not welcome in your home. However, if the bear is already food-conditioned leave it alone and contact your local Conservation Service Officer for help as these bears can be aggressive.

Bears are lured into peoples' backyards by:

  • household garbage
  • pet and livestock food
  • bird feeders
  • food scraps and smells from uncleaned barbeques
  • compost bins
  • orchards
  • garden produce

How you can help

Household garbage

  • Household garbage is the single biggest killer of bears. When people allow bears to access garbage, they help create "problem" bears that are usually destroyed.
  • During the early spring to late fall, keep garbage behind closed doors in your garage, basement or storage area. Garbage that is left in open carports or in your backyard is an easy target for bears.
  • Put your garbage out on the morning of collection day and not the night before. Avoid stockpiling garbage as this is a good way to attract bears.
  • If you take your garbage to the dump yourself, make sure that it is stored behind closed doors and take it to the dump on a frequent basis.
  • Thoroughly clean your garbage containers every 2-3 days.

Pet and livestock food

  • Bears help themselves to all kinds of pet food. To avoid attracting bears, feed your pets indoors. If you must feed them outside, only put out enough food for a single meal and keep empty pet dishes inside. Store pet food inside your house.
  • Livestock food also attracts bears and must be kept in a secure barn or shed behind closed doors. If you allow bears access to your livestock food, they may learn to feed on your livestock.

Bird feeders

  • Bird feeders can easily be turned into bear feeders. Avoid hanging bird feeders during bear season.
  • If you choose to use bird feeders, hang them out of reach of bears and don't overfill them. Avoid spilling seeds and take your feeders in at night.

Uncleaned barbeques

  • Bears have been known to lift barbeques right off porches. During bear season, clean your barbeque immediately after every use. Wash the grill or burn off the smells, food residue and grease. If you can smell your barbeque then it is not clean enough.
  • Store your barbeque in a safe place behind closed doors.

Compost bins

  • Rotting food waste in compost bins draws bears. Indoor worm composters are recommended for domestic food wastes.
  • Only grass and hedge clippings should be placed in outdoor compost bins. To reduce odours, cover compost with soil and bleach or lime.
  • Washable, plastic compost bins with lids are recommended for outdoor use. They must be cleaned regularly.

Orchards

  • The best way to keep bears out of your fruit trees and orchards is to enclose them with electric fencing.
  • Electric fencing only works, however, if it is operating before bears become a problem. Bears will go right through electric fencing once they are food-conditioned and know that food is available.
  • Electric fences must be 4 feet high with a quick pulse. If the pulse is too slow bears can learn to move through between pulses. Use metal not wooden posts as bears can climb wood. Electric fencing is cost effective and relatively easy to install. Contact your local fencing company or supply store for more information.
  • Picking ripe and excess fruit and removing windfall on a regular basis will discourage bears from seeking food. Store your fruit securely behind closed doors.
  • If you have bear problems and do not use your fruit trees, consider removing them.

Garden Produce

 

Use electric fencing to keep bears out of your garden, but make sure that you put it up before bears learn that you have vegetables (see under Orchards).

Bears in Dumpsters

Bears are lured into communities by the smells of food and garbage coming from commercial dumpsters. They are especially attracted to dumpsters that are used by restaurants and grocery stores. Bears become dumpster divers, jumping right in and helping themselves.

What needs to be done

The only way to keep bears out of dumpsters is to lock the lids down every night. Local businesses that use commercial dumpsters should ensure that their dumpsters are locked at the end of each day.

Bears in landfills

Unfenced landfill sites are bear magnets. Large numbers of bears in B.C. have become conditioned to eating garbage at landfills. These "problem" bears come into contact with people and this leads to conflicts. For example, in 1994, it was estimated that bear "problems" (ranging from bears visits to human conflict situations) were occurring in approximately 150 sites. In most cases, black bears were the culprits.

Bears that feed on garbage in landfills are risking physical injury. These bears are exposed to a variety of toxic substances and can be injured by sharp metal and glass objects. Also, they tend to experience extensive tooth decay (Smith and Lindsey 1989).

What's being done

Electric fencing is an expected and affordable cost of operating a landfill in bear country.
Properly designed and maintained electric fences are now being used by communities in British Columbia and this is helping to keep bears out of landfill sites. The Ministry of Environment has helped to install electric fences at 14 landfills and continues to help communities reduce bear problems.

The garbage in these landfills is covered with soil on a daily basis to reduce bear-enticing odors.

If the electric fencing is poorly installed or not maintained, bears will continue to access the landfill site. For example, bears can enter the site when the gates are open and in some cases they can dig under the electric fences. An underground apron of chain-link fencing or steel mesh can be installed to keep bears from digging.

The problem with fencing landfills is that the garbage-conditioned bears will search elsewhere in the community for food. Conservation Officers have helped to reduce this problem by relocating or killing "problem" bears before landfills are fenced. People can also help by eliminating any alternate food sources for bears.

Bears and bees

Just like in Winnie the Pooh, bears are crazy about honey. Bears have been known to wreak havoc for apiary operators, destroying their bee hives and stealing their honey.

What bee keepers can do

  • Locate your bee yards in open areas, away from forests and bear travel routes.
  • Avoid putting your beehives out in the spring. You're more likely to have problems at this time because bears are hungry after hibernating and there's not much food available for them.
  • Install an electric fence around your beeyard before you have bear problems. Sometimes food-conditioned bears will go right through electric fences.
  • Strap your beehives together and put them on elevated platforms out of bear reach. Use metal posts instead of wood to support the platform. Bears can climb wooden posts.

Bears and Crops

Unfortunately for farmers, bears like eating oats, hay and other crops. In B.C., prime farm land is located in grizzly habitat (Banci 1991).

What farmers can do

  • Remove any brush or trees surrounding your crop production areas and reduce shelter and cover for bears.
  • Install electric fencing around your crops. This is only effective, however, if you fence the area before you have "problem" bears. Chronic "problem" bears have been known to break through electric fences (see under Orchards).
  • Use dogs or bear dogs (e.g Karelian dogs) to keep bears away. Acoustic devices such as propane operated scare guns can also be used.
  • Develop a network with your neighbours to help keep each other informed about bears in your community.

Bears and Livestock

Some bears consider your livestock to be free game. Grizzly bears, for example, forage in grazing areas and have been known to predate on livestock.

Most problems with livestock are caused initially by the smell of rotting animal carcasses which draw bears into the area. Carcass pits can lure bears in from large distances (Madel 1996).

What livestock farmers can do

Keep your livestock away from forests and bear travel routes. Ensure that your calving area is located in an open space, away from forest cover.

Put electric fencing around your carcass disposal area and cover the carcasses regularly with soil to reduce the smell. If you have a small operation like a pig farm, enclose it with electric fencing.

Try scaring bears away from your livestock areas with motion lights, propane operated scare guns or bear dogs. Some dog breeds are especially selected to protect livestock such as Great Pyrenees, Akbash or the Anatolian Shepherd).

Develop a network with your neighbours to help keep each other informed about bears in your community.

 

FEATURE ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS

Thank Heavens for Search and Rescue... December 2007 interview of Madde Watts, SAR Advisor for California Karelians, who helped coordinate and directed resources for the nationally televised rescue of a father and his three children caught unprepared for a snowstorm while looking for a Christmas tree in a national forest

Tahoe World ... FROM RUSSIA WITH PUPPY LOVE: Russian breed of canine can help keep bears out of homes, dumpsters

Mammoth Times... Bearing down on work with Karelian Bear Dogs

British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land & Air Protection... Preventing Bear Problems

 


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